Mr CEO

“How am I looking?”

He asked for the nth time as he fussed over his smartly cut greying hair, patting it into place.

I smiled softly and nodded in affirmative.

He shook his head nervously, went back to adjusting his tie.

“Seriously, how do I look? I am all nerves, as you can see!” He said a tad bit pensively as he dusted off a non-existent fleck off his coat.

“Why but? You look Perfect! Like a CEO should!” I said, hoping to calm him down!

“Thanks! Let’s not jinx it yet. The official announcement should be out just before the closing bell. It should be a good weekend!” He gulped the water quickly as he downed his morning meds.

“You betcha! It will be a good weekend.” I trilled happily as I helped him with his purse, keys and mobile.

“Why aren’t you joining me for lunch with the board. Wouldn’t you want to be with me by my side, when the inevitable happens?” he paused to plant a dry kiss on my forehead.

“You know how much I love that right? Sadly, I have my charity group meet scheduled already plus I have to meet the doc too. I will get away as early as I can, I promise!” I patted his cheek affectionately.

“Let’s pop the bubbly later. Chill one for me!”

“As you say my dearest! God speed!” I waved him goodbye.

A few tense hours passed by in anticipation.

It was all a matter of time.

And then on cue, the phones began to ring nonstop

It was my cue to move and I did so at a lightning speed

******************************************************

At the office, he couldn’t sit, nor stand, or concentrate.

He kept looking at his phone, for that all-important message, an unanimous decision from the board, announcing him to be the next CEO.

He had worked them alright. That too for months!

Breaking his chain of thoughts, his secretary rushed in

“Not now, Nina! Told you not to disturb me!” He snapped at her

“The board made a decision and it’s not you!” Nina whispered the words.

“What? How is it even possible?” He was incredulous

“It is all over the news. Check your feed!” Nina fumbled with her smartphone.

‘Wannabe CEO caught pants down! Stud Boss’s Rompades!’ screamed the banner headlines and his photos in various moods and stages of undressing with multiple women friends of his were splashed across.

It was relentless, the acerbic social media avalanche. All his escapades were out there for public consumption. His life the latest grist for the mill

A shiver went down his spine. He thought he had been extremely discreet.

Who and how were the questions he grappled with as the missive from the board came in swiftly, asking him to clear his desk within an hour.

He tried dialling his wife. The calls went unanswered.

*******************************************************

I watched the Tamasha unfold as I checked into a comfortable room facing the sea.

It felt good to let his calls be.

It felt good to be needed again.

It felt good to be in back in control.

I knew he had been making plans behind my back to ditch me and move on to his next conquest, leaving me with nothing. After all these years of marriage and its complicated compromises, just imagine!

I had been aware of all his dalliances. I had been painstakingly collecting the incriminating evidence, sniffing people in the press, cultivating the right ones, feeding them scraps, all anonymously of course!

All I needed was a grand occasion to finally pull the rug, and reveal the real him to the adoring world, by passing the lurid notes and dirty snaps to media handles on the sly.

That he routinely cheated on his wife, abused her mentally, made her feel incomplete.

That he still thought her to be a stupid old cow.

Well, as they say, revenge is a dish best served cold. And as you know, hell hath no fury than a wife scorned

Time to play the wilting, weepy, wronged wife

Big fat alimony, here I come!

Atishi

History is theirs whose language is the sun!’ said Stephen Spender in his evocative poem about an elementary school classroom in a slum, while urging the teachers and the system to be aware and alter the glaring gaps and marginalization of our societies.

The more I read about Atishi, the more I am convinced that she has embodied the spirit of this poem, which is freeing the lesser fortunate from their catacombs and giving them a level playing field.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, or aren’t a resident of NCT, you would’ve definitely heard of #Atishi, a role model, and been completely bowled over by her conviction and capabilities.

Atishi emphasizes on dignity or self-worth that is the right of every child. The sheer apathy and disdain of the system sit heavily on the backs of progeny of the poorest, who grow up believing that they are children of lesser gods. Their drooping body language reflects their lack of self-belief.

It is tending to this dignity that has led to a systemic change in the way education is curated, assimilated, and imparted in Delhi’s Government schools.

Atishi, often called ‘the architect of educational reforms in Delhi Government Schools’ was born on 8 June 1981, to Vijay Singh and Tripta Wahi, two Delhi University professors. After majoring in history at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi in 2001, Atishi joined Oxford University, completing her master’s degree in History on a Chevening scholarship in 2003. Atishi, a Rhodes scholar, after graduating from Magdalen College, Oxford in 2005, came back to India to share her knowledge with the motherland.

Apart from teaching at Rishi Valley School in Andhra Pradesh, Atishi spent seven years in a village in Madhya Pradesh, in organic farming and formulating progressive educational policies. As she worked with various NGOs, she got involved with the AAP movement. She has been a key member of AAP’s think tank, policy drafting, and as Mr. Manish Sisodia’s advisor, worked on the twin verticals of health and education. She currently represents Kalkaji in the Delhi Assembly.

In schools, what has worked is Atishi’s three pronged approach!

She insisted on cleanliness, inculcating a sense of belonging, and ownership amongst the students. The reimagining and overhauling of curriculum through introduction of ‘happiness hour’, mindfulness, and entrepreneurship has transformed the diffident children into confident and cheerful beings who believe they matter.

Involving parents in decision making via democratically elected School Management Committees has made the indifferent administration more accountable.

In addition to infrastructural reforms, champion and committed teachers are identified, celebrated, awarded yearly and sent for further training across the world.

The amazing numbers speak for themselves. In about 4 years, apart from a holistic re-hauling of the system, 21 new school buildings with modern facilities were constructed and 8,000 equivalent new classrooms were added.

Many children who have benefited from this revamping will grow up to be fruitful citizens and gainful additions to the country. As they say, educating a child is to turn those closing walls into open doors because an empowered child will change the world.

Atishi has worked closely with Mohalla clinics of Delhi, as her second area of focus is health of a girl child.

With her conviction, belief-system and implementation skills, Atishi continues to be a ray of sunshine in Indian politics.

AAP’s official page describes Atishi thus – ‘Her passion for mass politics and expertise in policy makes for a potent combination and a breath of fresh air in Indian politics.’

Politics is the only means to achieve large scale and long term change,” says Atishi. We at Incredible Women of India, couldn’t agree more.

I came on board at IWI in September 2020, since then have worked hard at bringing out stories that mattered, narratives that needed to be heard by you, me and us.
I’ve always wanted to chat with this Incredible Woman of India. I had a sliver of a chance and pursued it eagerly.
Thanks to my lucky stars @AtishiAAP said yes to be our guest of honour on our next IWI Talk.

We at IWI are celebrating ‘Women in Public Service’ the whole of December. It is our proud privilege to host Atishi, an activist, politician, educator, and MLA from Delhi, on our IWI Talk slated for 11th December at 6 pm.

#IWI#incrediblewomenofindia#WomeninPublicService#Atishi#womeninpolitics#womenempoweringotherwomen#womenpower

Do join us to celebrate this incredible woman from India! See You!

Music, my love!

One, two, three…I started counting the seconds as soon as the cries of the newborn baby rent the stuffy oppressive air!

How musical the cries sounded to my parched ears!

The midwife took her own sweet time in coming out to announce the good news that I had been waiting for ages. “It’s a girl!” She announced gravely, stretching her palm for the promised goodies. Instead, I hugged her and danced away.

I named my princess Vagdevi, after Goddess Saraswati. I dreamt day in day out, about the jam-packed concerts where she would enthrall and mesmerize the attendees with her enchanting vocal cords, the sheer range of her notes, while a proud me ran helter-skelter organizing the sold-out event.

My wife Sangeeta – quite a misnomer actually, not one musical note there – thought I was going berserk. Because our baby was merely months old! But I knew I was heading in the right direction. One had to plan in advance and prepare accordingly if greatness was sought.

As Vagdevi grew up, I understood why humans coined the adage, ‘Man proposes and God Disposes!’ How I hated it too! Vagdevi had a deep guttural tone, which made normal polite interactions feel like a full-throated battle afoot.

Even though all my senses suggested to the contrary, I still went ahead and engaged a music tutor, paying him full fee upfront. You should have seen his expression as Vagdevi attempted the seven notes. He not only reimbursed his fee, threw in a few hundred extra but also sent some well-meaning advice my way. “Stones can sing but not your daughter!” If only looks could kill! That fellow would have been blown to smithereens.

I didn’t give up hope. I searched far and wide, promised the teachers exorbitant amounts, and brought them home. Five minutes with Vagdevi, they all were ready to cry blue murder! I cannot fathom what about music that irked her, but so far a sweet docile Vagdevi immediately embraced her inner demons and sang lustily, enough to scare the living daylights off a grown man. I tried hard but Vagdevi was very trying.

Years passed. Vagdevi was now ten years old and I was on my hundredth tutor, when the pandemic hit us. With the lockdown extending, online classes became the new normalcy. I finally realized I had hit the jackpot. All I had to do was engage the services of an online teacher. I soon found a willing, gullible musician.

On an auspicious day, Vagdevi’s musical lessons began. We were staring at a record. The tutor was willing to continue after the first class! I was ecstatic while a very vexed Sangeeta was taking it out on the vessels, house-help, and more.

Soon we were on the 5th class.

It was unbelievable! I had to see the magic with my own eyes. As I tiptoed to Vagdevi’s closed door, I could hear a sonorous rendition of the seven notes. I was in the seventh heaven. I opened the door and peeped in.What I saw was enough to shake the ground beneath me.

Vagdevi was playing her video games, and her tutor was streaming another girl’s session on my computer. Bloody co-conspirators!

As I raved and ranted later, Vagdevi had just one thing to say. ‘If you love music so much, why don’t you learn?’

I don’t know what hurt me the most! Her belligerence or Sangeeta’s tittering. But it did have an iota of truth.Why didn’t I do so for so long? Anyways, why delay further on wasteful deliberations? I quickly became the humble seeker of the magic of music, working day and night on those tough notes, crests, and troughs.

Finally, I was ready with a few stanzas of “Virah!” That song from ‘Bandish Bandits’.

On my wedding anniversary, I serenaded my wife with an elegant rendition of that evocative song. Her relatives fell silent and an utterly offended Sangeeta stared at me teary-eyed. My mother-in-law pungently added, “You could have simply gifted her a gold necklace!

And I?

I’m singing to the cows in my backyard.Understanding they periodically reciprocate with a moo!

Ramblings at 5:30 am

It is almost 5:30 am now.

A time, by which most self-respecting South-Indians would be up.

Though self-respecting I am, barely a South-Indian I have remained.

It has been 5 days already,  when I received a call around this time of the day (5:14 am to be precise) from my brother, informing me that my mother’s twin sister was no more. It all happened in 24 hours.

Our biggest worry was my mother and what effect it would have on her. As expected, she has suffered much. She misses her twin terribly and she keeps talking about their daily chats on the phone. My aunt was suffering from Alzheimer’s and she remembered mom vividly.

Grief has its own mechanism. Strikes you on its rhythm and when least expected. And without any warning, exactly at what precise point, it starts troubling you, tormenting you, no one can hazard a guess. Only, you are left powerless.

I get up daily around that time, double-checking my phone for any missed calls, potter around the house, adjusting the chairs, and setting the mess left behind by my nocturnal children, right. But I too have slept only around 1:30 odd pm.

I fear about receiving calls about my parents…There I said it. It is such a debilitating, piercing, naked pain.

I feel vulnerable now that I have said it out loud. Husband and family understand when I tell them about my fears. They say ‘stay positive’, (Hardly the term to use in these circumstances but…) and stop inviting negative vibrations. I concur but that beastly thought remains till it pops up at early morns like this.

Now that I have bled on paper, I feel better. Just about! Slightly!

That said, I’m no stranger to death. I have seen death from the closest quarters possible and the scars it leaves behind on loved ones. The dead have it easier, only the living end up paying the price.

So I sush the devilish mind, keep pushing myself and lose track of time in domestic drivel and inanities, till I’m physically exhausted and there is no scope for hyper-ventilating or extrapolation.

Till I get up with a start and pen random thoughts like this.

Increasingly, I find myself going back to prayers and meditation. If nothing much, they help me be slightly calmer. Another example of aging!

This too shall pass, because that is the name of the game.

Keep the faith and march on!

 

Freedom

She watched listlessly the evening sun making morbid patterns on the walls opposite. She also watched her husband’s chest heave up and down, barely though.

It had been a harrowing week for her.

For him too.

His fever wasn’t coming down even after five days, the headaches weren’t going and his breathlessness was getting worse by the hour. A slow panic was setting in both.

The children settled in the US, the attending doctor, all advised testing which took another two days to materialise.  There were just too many waiting for medical help.

The reports had come the previous evening and as feared, he had tested positive. He went to pieces and then clammed up, almost immediately embracing his impending fate without a whimper or putting up even the tiniest of fights.

It was so unlike him to throw in the towel so quickly and look towards her for guidance, having meticulously decided every single minute of her day without her say so and vote, through the thirty-five years of their marriage. She was expected to be the implementor of his diktats. A mere mute follower. Not following his diktats meant days of silent treatment with intermittent verbal outbursts from him. He ruled over her ruthlessly.

 The massive weight of her wedding band sat heavily on her hand because with time, dominance became normalized, in this aged marriage.  

The children, quick to sense the power dynamics of their household, did their best to play the honest referee, but then gave up when they understood what they were up against. Their father was not a very amenable man. He hated being corrected. So they studied hard and flew the nest as fast as they could, mouthing a silent prayer for their frail mother left behind, whenever they could.

Presently, she suggested to him albeit weakly, to follow the doctor’s orders and shift into a hospital to have a fighting chance. He refused point-blank saying a visit to the ICU meant certain death. He would rather spend his last few days in his home, which he had lovingly built with his sweat and blood.

She smiled softly at ‘his’.

She then religiously updated his situation over FaceTime to the children. The children after a virtual huddle left the decision on her. They couldn’t anyways come to help. Plus the intensive care came at a very steep price. They certainly weren’t flush with funds and they had families to take care of. Things were already dirt-messy back home. The parents had to fend for themselves.

She sighed.

The children couldn’t be blamed. They had their share of responsibilities and problems. Money always brought out the unwanted uglier side of one into full glare and also made one coldly practical.

But then her mind began to float unfettered.

Sure, they would save a lot, if home treatment continued, and eventually, when the inevitable happened, she would be left with the house and a tidy sum in the bank.

The children anyway wouldn’t bother about this small change, in their eyes that is. They weren’t coming back also!

She would be free to go wherever she fancied, do whatever she wanted, without any recriminations or the attendant violence, verbal or otherwise. She would be the master of her day, her thoughts, her actions without any fear or recriminations.

The whole wide world waited to be explored.

Oh to be truly free with an added bonus of money to spend! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

But for that to happen, he had to…

She then crumpled and bawled away uncontrollably, cursing herself!

She the wife! 

Because she took the vow until death did they part.

********************************************

A couple weeks later, the vernacular press ran a curious story of an older man getting miraculously cured, entirely by home quarantining, when he was given up for dead.

His hale and hearty wife who had been attending to him developed severe complications, suffered a massive heart attack, and passed away within two days of his recovery.

Shakuni & The Dice of Doom: Book 2 of the Mahabharata Series By Mallar Chatterjee

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Shakuni & The Dice of Doom: Book 2 of the Mahabharata Series by Mallar Chatterjee is a riveting rendition of the much-maligned Antagonist of Mahabharata, albeit with a delicious twist!
I have read so many versions and voices of Mahabharata but the twist attempted here leaves a powerful impact on the reader. Fine writing is all about looking at yet another unseen angle and retelling an oft-told tale with a beautiful and newer effect. Mallar is a fine writer by that barometer. Let me confess, initially, I was a bit disconcerted at the turn attempted but the author sews it up splendidly at the end. Language is marvelous and the pace never lags. Kudos Mallar for making the well-known epic come across as a new tale. Looking forward to more such stellar stuff from your pen.

Mallar Chatterjee answered a few questions posed by AkkaAcerbic

1)What made you choose a mythological/ epic thriller as your first and second offering? Why did you choose Shakuni after Yuddhishtra and not Bhima?

 Actually, I didn’t have to “choose” mythology. Rather, my avid interest in mythology brought out the writer in me. Perhaps I felt an urge to express my own realizations through a kind of customized rendition. I chose Shakuni after Yudhisthira mainly because of the contrast. Another reason was that I was looking for a subject that can give me some liberty to work my imagination.

2) What makes a good rendition of a well-known epic? What are the aspects one must take care of while penning one? Using ‘Shakuni’ can you elucidate further?

Just like it is difficult to explain what makes good literature, it is not easy to explain a good rendition. I think a rendition of a mythological piece can be of two types – (a) diligently following the linear narrative laced with author’s own realisation or philosophisation (example: “Jaya” by Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik) and (b) penning a fictional story based on the epic developing certain hints, indications or exploring untold possibilities (ex: “Palace of Illusion” by Chitra Divakaruni or Amish books). Both kinds can make successful renditions considering the literary standards they achieve. I personally feel that a good rendition should stop fractionally short of offering a distinct judgment in spite of making its innate tilt understood. We must keep it in mind that even the epics leave enough ambivalence that keeps them so much intellectually pertinent even now. A rendition must preserve that ambivalence in a subtle manner. “Shakuni” falls in the second category, I think (“Yudhisthira” in the first). Although I took some creative liberty in “Shakuni” to create the desired atmosphere, I think I did not let myself be judgemental.  

3) How does one maintain the taut pace that requires the novel to be a thrilling page-turner? What are the beginner pitfalls one must avoid while penning? 

I can share my own experience to address this point. I have learnt one thing. Writer’s thoughts and his words must be like twins separated at birth. What I mean to say is that the thought and the expression thereof are like two closely linked, yet different personalities. They must be compatible with each other but must be allowed to establish themselves according to their own personalities. In my first book, I tried to transmit my thought as it is in my writing creating some chaos at times. At the same time, my first book was more honest than my second as it amply represented the mind of the author. 

4) How important are the setting and characterization? Should they be noble, distorted or just grey? How many strong characters should the novel have to balance the yin and yang? How have you achieved the same in ‘Shakuni’?

In a period novel, the setting is extremely important. The author has to care about creating visuals. Both my books have an implicit assumption that humans are not binary characters, nor are they even consistent throughout. Their actions need to be viewed from their perspective and a universal moral conclusion may not be necessary. In “Shakuni“, I was dealing with multiple characters – all of them having their own specialties. I created two rival groups out of them following the established storyline and then tried to make some characters appear pseudo-partisan or pseudo-neutral using some imagination, thus trying to preserve the ambivalence.

5) What is the relevance of language for writing in this Insta-era? Is it necessary to be verbose or would ‘being-terse’ work better? 

Language, I believe, is like a boat that carries the plot and the theme through the mind and sensibility of readers. It is the language, more than anything else that determines the literary merit of the writing. In my first book, I inadvertently became verbose to create a phonetic effect. I believe today that language should be idiomatically valid, syntactically uncomplicated and thematically succinct. Based on these three tenets, a writer can lend further virtues to the writing depending on his or her natural flair. Personally, I am a great admirer of the style Ms. Chitra Divakaruni used in “Palace of Illusions” that at times borders on the poetic.

6) How essential are hooks? How should an ideal epic thriller end? Tantalizingly open-ended or all ends neatly sewn up? Were you worried about the twist that you have incorporated in Shakuni? How has the response been?

Hooks are important for a particular kind of rendition but it may not be overused. In case of a myth-based thriller, such devices are almost necessary to take the reader by surprise. But in case of a linear subjective retelling, there is limited scope for such devices. Whether the ending should be properly sewed up or left hanging a cliff depends entirely on the treatment of the story and the actual motive of the author. I was – and still am – quite worried about the experimentation I did in “Shakuni“. However, the response that I have received until now has been quite positive.

7) How imperative is reading your peers to fine-tune your craft?

It is very important to read peers unless one is completely confident that he or she is going to do something unprecedented or path-breaking. My personal feeling is that an author should remain a student all along and learn uninhibitedly from the peers who are not rivals but co-passengers on a fascinating journey. 

8) Would you attempt writing in any other genre? If yes please specify. Who are your favorite writers and why?

I am not yet sure if I shall write in any other genre. Time will tell. My favourite authors, across genres, are Sukumar Ray, Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, Rajsekhar Basu, Satyajit Ray, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Dr. Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri, Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni, Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik, Amish – to name a few.

9) What advice would you give a budding writer?

Not exactly an advice but one suggestion I can give from my very little experience. An aspiring writer should be sure about three things before starting to write. These are why to write, what to write and how to write – though not necessarily in that order. For me, the most important of these is why to write. Once one becomes sure of it, others may be sorted out on their own.

 

Shakuni & The Dice of Doom: Book 2 of the Mahabharata Series By Mallar Chatterjee has been received very well and is available in bookshops across India and on Amazon

https://www.amazon.in/Shakuni-Dice-Doom-Book-Mahabharata/dp/9385854798/

When Tanushree Podder Decodes Complex Plots

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Tanushree Podder calls herself a non-technical writer who goes by her instinct and writes about any topic that catches her fancy.  She writes across genres.

Tanushree ma’am says that across genres there are some commonalities  like setting, characters, plots, conflicts,  and their resolution

For a gripping thriller, plots have to be racy. A thriller has to be an adrenaline-inducing experience so that the novel is a page-turner. To achieve this,  the writer needs to scatter some red herrings, twists and turns across the plot line and also leave some hooks at the end of each chapter so that the reader is invested enough with the next chapter too.

The characters have to be strong and enigmatic while the writing has to be a little mysterious. Complex plots can have subplots which can further be developed into stand-alone tales. Complex plots have multiple characters in multiple events across multiple locations. The simple plot is akin to a cloth with a single pattern whereas a complex plot is a multi-colored, multi-patterned cloth, woven masterfully. To create this successfully, it needs great skill. King, Follet, Grisham, and Brown are some of the masters.

A budding writer needs to read at least 100 books before penning one. Research is paramount. A budding author should have a thick skin and keep the nose to the ground, to smell out a good tale because there are stories happening all around us. Among her contemporaries, she likes to read Amitava Ghosh, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Arundhati Roy, Manu Joseph. She hopes to write many many more novels.

Amen to that

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When Ayan Pal Talks About The Difference Between Search And Research

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, Session 6 will be with Ayan Pal on 21 May 2019, author of ‘Confessions On An Island’.

The difference between search and research

By Ayan Pal

I began my tryst with research during Engineering, not for any academic purpose, but to fuel my passion for writing instead. I was working on a historical crime fantasy set in pre-Independence India and the UK and needed to get my facts right, no matter what.

My primary source of inspiration was my prized possession – The World Book Encyclopaedia, a gift from my mom. However, the golden gilded copies could not help me complete my tour de force. In fact, it was an utter failure. I was simply searching for whatever I could find out and trying to fit them into the plot thus making it lose its level of thrill.

Thus, despite have a rock-solid story, and dollops of imagination, a lack of ‘proper’ research made my writing cumbersome and unpalatable. In short, even the ‘world’ was not enough! Having learned my lesson the hard way, I used any and every opportunity thereafter to understand how research can help one elevate one’s writing and make it more thrilling, irrespective of whether it’s a novel, short story, speech, or even a post on Facebook!

Let me begin with an exercise to try and try to use a plot point through Potassium cyanide – a poison most of you would be familiar with for its many references across crime fiction.

Option 1: It was the 24-year-old Ponnuthurai Sivakumaran from Sri Lanka whose paved the path to avoid interrogation if captured for Tamil Tigers. His act of defiance was simple – swallow cyanide hidden within the uniform as a capsule. As he stumbled upon the ground, his mouth frothing, and beginning a slow painful death, a new militant hero was born.

Debrief 1: The above option is an example of using half-baked research by scrounging through undependable sources like Wikipedia. Even though there is documented evidence about the said militant having committed suicide, his exact age and the details of where the capsule was hidden is clearly a figment of the author’s imagination. The last sentence is an absolute flight of fantasy that is more of an ill-construed opinion not based on facts. For starters, cyanide causes almost instant death, thus making the sentence unrealistic as well as incorrect.

Option 2: An Indian man MP Prasad, a goldsmith, who committed suicide left a hastily scrawled note describing the taste of the fatal toxin, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported on Saturday. “Doctors, potassium cyanide. I have tasted it. It burns the tongue and tastes acrid,” he wrote, according to the paper.

Debrief 2: I have just two words to say here – dull and boring. No attempt has been made here of using a fact to elevate the writing in any which way. While this is an example of great research, where the source is also quoted, is it necessary? Would it have been better maybe had it been done in a subtler way, say an Indian character reading the Sunday Morning Herald in Australia suddenly exclaiming to his wife about the taste of cyanide, causing her to immediately stiffen and get an idea that could change their lives forever?

While the above two pieces of writing, though flawed can actually be appreciated for conducting some sort of research, let’s look at an example that became a social-media sensation for its thrilling tone and seemingly factualness.

Option 3: There was a very recent murder case in Australia where an Indian woman killed her husband by giving him crushed Apple seeds. She & her lover have been convicted and sentenced for 22 years & 25 years in prison. I never knew till now that apple seeds contain Cyanide. I searched for the info & was surprised to find that apple seeds do contain Cyanide. This is also one reason why insects hardly hit an apple crop. They know instinctively maybe. Please ensure that the seeds are removed before eating apples. Especially children should not be given a whole apple. Instead cut, remove the seeds before giving it to them. You can google for the veracity of my observation if you have doubts. And do spread the message around to as many people as you can.

Debrief 3: This post is based on an actual case of cyanide poisoning in Melbourne, Australia where Sofia Samand murdered her husband Sam Abraham along with her former lover Arun Kamalasanan. On 21st of June 2018, the Supreme Court jailed Kamalasanan for 27 years and Sam for 22 years. Shocking, isn’t it? But not entirely true. You see, the actual incident had the woman giving her husband orange juice laced with cyanide. However, this half-truth looks almost believable with Google likely to throw up numerous results about the fact that apple seeds do contain poison. Imagine writing a book or delivering a speech to be recorded for posterity (say a TED Talk) based on fake news. What would that make people think about you?

The need to impregnate a sense of expertise and authority in the reader’s and/or listener’s mind through the use of factual data is a must, provided you vary of sources of data and actually speak with experts if you cannot experience it yourself to ensure you get the facts right no matter what.

In my novel ‘Confessions on an Island’, I have used vivid descriptions as well as dialogs to share a whirlpool of facts that not just help you understand the settings better, but also present clues that you will be able to relate with when the denouement presents itself. It being a psychological thriller, and with me being an Engineer and not doctor, I decided against doctoring the reactions of the characters and/or basing them on what I was most likely to do.

They were instead based by researching about patients who have faced similar mental issues, interacting with people with disorders like Bipolar, and actually feeling some of the many things that the characters faced. There were research and facts, there were various sources, but they were also used in sporadic amounts to ensure the content never overwhelms the countenance.

In my opinion, research is like the thread that holds the pearls of any story together, one that stays in the background and lets the real assets – the story, characters, plot, and twists shine. It is a foundation upon which the greatest of stories can be built. The moment it tries to become a pearl in itself and stand alone as a tour de force, you will end up losing the sheen in your writing, causing the carefully collected pearls to needlessly scatter.

The next time you try and pursue writing your next story, speech, or even that social media post, may the force of research be with you. Amen!

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When Archana Sarat Deconstructs Writing About A Criminal Mind

, Session 5 with Archana Sarat, author of Birds Of Prey and Tit for Tat.

Getting Into a Criminal’s Mind

By Archana Sarat

There are two pillars of a crime novel – A hero, who fights the crime and a criminal who commits the crime in spite of the odds around.

Why should a writer get into a criminal’s mind? 

It is imperative for a writer to do so to get better writing and reading experience. The writer should examine closely the reasons for a criminal to commit a crime because usually, a harsh punishment doesn’t deter a criminal.

How does crime happen?

Though there are multiple reasons, broadly there are three.

  1. The Crimes due to Poverty.  The divide between the rich and the poor is a compelling factor but most often a criminal is known to explain away his stance without any remorse.
  2. The Crimes due to Addiction like Alcohol or drugs
  3. The Crimes due to Passion. Could be psychological issues like neglect during childhood, lack of love or anger issues.

 

Archana also adds that characterization is very important.  Fleshing out a 3-dimensional character who doesn’t disclose his/her true motives and extensions, is a difficult task as a criminal has many shades.  The other challenge is to buildup the criminal and simultaneously get the hero to deconstruct.

  • Research deep into the crime.
  • Analyze the criminal’s mind.
  • A writer should be careful not to give away all the clues at once.
  • Hence multiple drafts are needed to get that added punch. All this hard work will determine how well the novel will get crafted ultimately.

Archana, the author of ‘Birds of Prey‘ was drawn to crime-fiction as she was compelled to talk about child-sexual-abuse. Crime-Thrillers can be used as instruments of change if they can make even one person rethink. If the cause of the crime can be identified and that cause can be done away with, there could be lesser distress.

Archana is in the process of penning another crime-thriller. (Grey Rocks)

As she confesses, writing about a villain or about crimes of passion is more challenging.

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When Archana Sarat Talks About Getting Inside the Criminal’s Mind

Screen Shot 2019-05-04 at 1.40.25 PMCrime writing is an adrenalin-inducing genre of writing. Readomania has a big and proud list of authors and titles from the genre of crime writing and is bringing them all together for the Crime Writing Festival 2019 in the month of May. Throughout this month, every Tuesday and Thursday, Readomania’s thriller authors will feature in live Twitter discussions and answer budding authors’ questions on everything ‘thrilling’.

The Readomania Crime Writing Festival will also hold a contest on the best ‘original short crime fiction’, the winner of which will receive an ebook publishing deal with Readomania’s digital imprint, ReadoShots. There will also be book giveaways to the best question asked twice every week.

So, be on Twitter this whole month of May and tune in to the Readomania Crime Writing Festival 2019.

Here, Archana Sarat talks about ‘getting inside the criminal’s mind‘. It is gripping.

5th session of on by  16/5/19, 8PM on ‘Getting Inside the Criminal’s Mind’ The best question wins a copy of her book.

Getting Inside the Criminal’s Mind

By Archana Sarat

Narrating the story of Swarna, in Birds of Prey, through her own eyes, can easily be called as the biggest writing challenge I’ve faced till now. Here was a woman loved and respected by all; she was timid and caring. She loved children and could never harm another living creature. How could she ever be a criminal? A perusal through the newspaper every day is enough to acclimatize us to the fact that criminals come in all shapes and sizes, gender and background. A qualification, or lack thereof, makes no difference to the mind of a criminal.

Causes of Crime

While the government seems obsessed with dealing with the results of crime, it is the duty of writers to ponder about the causes of crime. When we understand what made our criminal what he is, it helps us write and understand him better. Every criminal is aware of right and wrong and they know the potential consequences of their actions. Still, they can shut off this awareness long enough to commit the crime. While some of them regret their actions later, most of them have a fanciful tale of how it wasn’t their fault.

While all criminals refuse to take personal responsibility for their actions and blame others, there are others who would do ‘anything’ in their pursuit of money, power, and control. Some of our politicians are examples of this! For some criminals, this is an easy way out. Stealing the music player or the tyres of a parked car can be an easy way to fill the pocket when compared to working for an entire week to earn the same money.

Understanding the different kinds of criminals, and the causes that shape them can help us write them better. Poverty is the first and primary reason why most people turn to crime. Sadly, the divide between the haves and have-nots is continuing to get wider; crime will only increase in such a society. It is not surprising that most criminals are from the poorer sections of society.

Not all criminals are poor. Some of the goriest crimes are perpetuated by the ruthless rich. What makes a rich person commit a crime? What drives him? What makes him lose his empathy? A history of childhood neglect and abuse is one of the most common reasons for crime in such sections of society.

Not all criminals are abused. Sometimes, a man has everything —a loving family, a good job, financial security—but still, he becomes a criminal. Mostly, in such situations, the man falls prey to a habit of alcohol or drug abuse. A problem of addiction, coupled with low self-esteem, could prove to be dangerous.

Not all criminals are addicted. Sometimes, a person commits a crime in a moment of passion. A flash of fury can be dangerous if a person does not know how to control his anger. One interesting thing to explore in such situations is why does the person have anger management issues?

Not all criminals are angry. Sometimes, the cause of crime runs deeper. Just like any other physical or mental ailment, this kind of criminal suffers from the lack of a sense of empathy and a sense of understanding. Right from a young age, this criminal cannot control himself from injuring others. Sometimes, he feels guilty too. However, his lack of empathy soon overpowers his guilt and he continues his life of crime. This kind of criminal requires psychiatric help.

Stepping into the Shoes

When I wrote about child sexual abuse in Birds of Prey, one of the first questions that was shot at me was whether the abuse was my personal experience. While I was delighted that I could write in such a manner that readers mistook it for a personal experience, writing those particular chapters was traumatic and distressing.

Before working on those chapters, I read extensively about child sexual abuse. Next, I went through medical examination reports and postmortem reports of actual crimes. Some of them had explicit photographs that still haunt me and give me sleepless nights. After that, I had the opportunity to speak to a few victims. I spent more than a month on this research to understand the level of brutality and callousness needed to perpetuate such crimes.

I put myself into the shoes of the victim and agonized over every hurt and every wound. Words froze and it was one of the worst writer’s blocks that I went through. I couldn’t believe how one could do such things to poor, innocent and helpless children.

It was time to put myself into the shoes of the criminal. This can be one of the most challenging activities for any writer. Unless you are a seasoned criminal yourself, it could be near impossible for you to imagine why you are doing what you are doing. This is where it helps to understand the causes of a crime. Now, you have situations to put yourself into that shows you why you became such a person.

Finally, the words started to flow, and the book was written. Getting into the mind of a criminal and exploring your way through it is a must for every aspiring crime writer. It is definitely not a pleasant experience and could scar you for life, but it makes your writing stronger, sharper and better.

 

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